How baptism rate at conventions relates to yearbook growth rate (Discussion)

by bohm 13 Replies latest jw friends

  • bohm

    We had a number of posters report on the baptism rate at conventions which is usually less than 1% and rates lower than 0.5% is by no means uncommon. Despite this there is still a positive growth rate in the US (0.71% according to the yearbook) and I wonder how these numbers relate. I hope someone can help me out if these assumptions appear sound:

    Lets suppose in an area of the US there is a baptism rate of r (rate observed) for instance r=0.5% would correspond to 7400 in attendance and 37 baptized because:

    r = N(Baptisms at convention) / N(Attendance at convention) = 37 / 7400

    We need to relate this quantity to the actual rate of baptisms (yearbook growth rate). There are three principal unknowns:

    • q : Fraction of total baptisms which takes place at conventions
    • Pa : Chance an average JW "publisher" will attend (and be counted in) the total number of attendants at the convention
    • Pb : Chance a random person at the convention is also a JW publisher

    q is required because not all baptisms take place at conventions. If q=1 we assume all baptisms take place at conventions and if q=0.5 we assume half of all baptisms take place at conventions.

    Pa is the chance a JW publisher will be (counted in) the total number of attendants at the conventions. For instance, if all JWs attend two conventions then Pa=2 and if an average JW attend half of the conventions then Pa = 0.5. This number is lowered by infirm JWs, ill JWs, JWs who are out of the seats getting icecream etc.

    Pb is the chance a person who is at the convention is also an "average" publisher (presumably, outsiders, children and DF/DA'd are also counted as attendants at conventions but these are not publishers)

    Lets give an illustration: Suppose q=0.75 (75% of all baptisms take place at conventions) and Pa=0.9 (A JW will on average miss out one of 10 conventions when double-attendance is included) and Pb = 0.9 (90% of attendants at conventions are publishers and not faded, DF'd, children, any of you guys, etc.). Then we can compute the total (effective) growth rate as:

    G = r * Pa / (q * Pb) = r * 1.33

    We need to substract from this number the rate with which JWs leave. First there is death. The death rate in the US is about 0.8%, however we must factor in that we are interested in the rate with which average publishers die (small children who rarely die are not publishers). If we suppose JWs become "average publishers" at age 10 (on average), this would boost the death rate by a little more than 10% (rough guesstimate). In addition many JWs presumably become inactive (due to age) a few years before they die but let's not count that. For simplicity, let's put the death rate at 0.9% (we should also factor in the JW population may be younger/older than the average person or live more/less healthy lives etc.).

    Secondly there is the rate with which people leave (DF/DA/fade) and never return. Let's suppose 1 out of 100 leave (i.e. stops being a regular publisher) every year for reasons other than death and half of these never return, that puts the "leave" rate at 0.5%. In total we get the effective growth rate to be:

    G(effective) = r * Pa / (q * Pb) - (%Dies) - (%Leaves) = r * 1.33 - 1.4

    Thus with these numbers the baptism rate at conventions should be a little more than 1% to maintain equilibrium and about 1.6% to account for the current JW growth rate of 0.71 in the yearbooks (1.6 * 1.33 - 1.44 = 0.71).

    Thus, if the baptism rates of 0.5% are representative something fishy is going on with these assumptions... There are a few options:

    • I am missing something (the "average publisher" may differ from "the average person" in a significant way)
    • The numbers are wrong (q, Pa, Pb, the "leave-rate" or "death-rate"). For instance there could be more DF/Inactives at the convention (Pb is lower than 0.9%). I am probably the worst person to guess these numbers so I hope someone else will give his or her view.
    • A few conventions may account for most of the growth whereas the "typical" convention signifies a decline ("the amazing hispanish conventions")
    • Ex-JWs who attend conventions with high growth rate don't bother to report the high growth rate here or on reddit because it is discouraging

    In conclusion:

    To translate the baptism rate reported from conventions into yearbook growth rate we must make several assumptions. It would be interesting to narrow down plausible values for these assumptions to better estimate local growth of the JWs.

  • konceptual99

    I appreciate your thinking and time you've spent on this bohm but I think the above is over egging the pudding.

    The number of baptised witnesses is never published. The figures that are used to calculate growth rates are for publishers. Publishers are not all baptised.

    Also, the figures always are based on peak publishers. They are massaging peaks through things like having 30 hour pioneer opportunities when the CO is coming.

    As you say, baptisms happen at CAs as well as RCs.

    Trying to get these extrapolations is IHMO a little bit of a waste of time as the variables are too great. I think the overall trend analysis of the YB presents a more useful indication of the actual health of the organisation. To that end it's quite simple....

    More and more time is being spent converting less and less people.

  • bohm

    konceptual: It might be a waste of time, but for my own sake I think it would be interesting to get a feeling for how the baptism numbers and conventions relates to the increase in publishers. In your experience is most of the baptisms at RCs or CAs?

    Also let me just get this straight: The rate of increase reported in the YB is the increase in peak publishers? (I thought it was in average publishers).

    I just noticed the total # of baptisms is given in the YB so i see your point this is probably moot.

  • alanv

    Baptisms, peak publishers and average publishers are all in the Yearbook. The ratio of attendees to baptism candidates at the regional assembly can only give us a rough idea what the years baptisms will be. And these days it is normally well below 1% at the regional assemblies.

  • konceptual99

    Sorry bohm on two counts. Firstly by "waste of time", what I really mean is that I don't there is really a way of correlating the convention baptism ratio to overall ratios with any science. I think it's simpler just to wait for the yearly report as that has the figures. I didn't mean to pour such scorn on your efforts :-)

    Secondly, I thought it was peaks between years you're right - for increase it is averages.

    I think most of the baptisms are at CAs.

  • dropoffyourkeylee

    Thanks for taking the time and thought for putting this together. Over the past few years this or similar reasoning has been discussed here. It is a difficult problem for several reasons.

    One issue is that we have some actual data that is either published or observed and reported on, for instance: Number of baptisms, number of average publishers, number of peak publishers, Memorial attendance, attendance at conventions, the average mortality rate in a country. But other data is either assumed or only reported on incompletely, for instance the number disfellowshipped, the number of faders/ returners, the number of immigrants/emigrants between countries.

    All in all it is a difficult math problem to try to explain how the WT can have positive growth in its published figures, yet every other measure we look at is in steep decline.

    Getting back to the original post observation about the number of baptized as a percent of the attendees at a convention, the ratio has been running about 0.3% to 0.5% for last few years. As a comparison, I have an old assembly program from a big convention in Detroit in 1973 where the ratio was about 2.5%. I posted screenshots of it once on this site but cannot seem to locate it right now.

  • bohm

    konceptual: if most people are baptized at CAs, why on earth are people then so exited about the baptisms at the RCs every year? Hrmpf, apostates!. At least the baptism numbers makes a lot more sense to me now..

  • bohm

    One hypothesis could be the following: Historically, up to around the 90s, the JWs has expanded primarily by conversion. The "average convert" is probably a younger person say around 30 year old. He or she then has children which are brought into the group as very young. Taken together that means the JWs should have a higher birth rate (or "effective" birth rate due to conversion of small children) than the rest of the population and be younger than the rest of the population. Accordingly the death rate of the JWs is lower than the rest of the population.

    However when conversion rates drop (i.e. most converts are descendants of JWs) the JW population will become more representative of the actual population (i.e. older). That means the death rate will increase and the fertility rate will drop. If this is true that means that even if the current conversion rate/ability to baptize and keep children in is maintained the resulting total growth may be lower than now.

    I think this hypothesis is (plausibly) true in terms of the overall direction of the effect but I got no idea if it is significant or not, that would need to be checked by looking at the numbers.

  • dropoffyourkeylee

    correction: The 1973 Detroit convention had 982 baptized with 49,911 attendance, which rounds to 2.0%.

  • Witness My Fury
    Witness My Fury

    1973 can be viewed as special case as it was the run up to 1975 and that was not a period of average growth. Not dismissing the figure as such, just that it had other things going on to influence it.

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